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    Top 15 tips for climbing mount Kilimanjaro

    12 minutes read
    the highest peak

    Need tips for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? We’ve got you covered! 

    Kilimanjaro has been called ‘The Roof of Africa’, and there is a good reason for it.

    Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest African mountain and the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. However, it must be noted that this bucket-list climb is no walk in the park.

    For many, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they must be prepared for it. Preparing for a trek like this means more than just getting fit; if you have been searching for a place to find all the information you need, we’ve got you covered.

    Climb during the dry season

    Tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Technically, you can climb Mt Kilimanjaro any time of the year, but should you? Nope.

    If you go during the wet seasons (March to May and November to early December), your success rate will plummet, and you may not even reach summit day. The terrain is muddy, making the climb difficult, and storms are frequent, meaning you’ll spend most of your time cold and wet.

    Instead, swap the bad weather out for the clear, sunny skies of the dry season. Between January to February and June to October, you’ll have the best conditions to climb Mount Kilimanjaro successfully.

    The only downside? You won’t be the only one on the trail. It’s the most popular time to summit Africa’s highest mountain.

    Train for summiting mount Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania - training for summit - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    How committed are you to your gym membership? If the answer is not a resounding “I’m married to the treadmill!” you need to dust off your activewear if you’re going to take on days of trekking.

    While hiking Kilimanjaro is possible for everyone, trekking experts seriously recommend training for the summit. You’re setting yourself up for failure without a regular gym schedule (four to five times a week), a committed relationship with the Stairmaster, and four to seven-hour hikes on the weekend with a 10kg pack.

    Not only does a high level of fitness make the trek more enjoyable, but it will help your body deal with the physical strain and keep altitude sickness at bay. When should you start training for Mt Kilimanjaro? At least six to eight months before your trek.

    Take it slow to avoid altitude sickness

    Tanzania - slow climber - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Altitude sickness is your number one enemy on Kilimanjaro. It stops most people from reaching the summit and could be your undoing if you climb too quickly, as oxygen is needed at extreme altitudes.

    During your trek, your guides often say “pole.” It’s Swahili for “slowly, slowly.” The reason? The slower your ascent, the more time your body will have to acclimate to the high altitude as oxygen levels drop. If you go up too fast, you risk getting sick and being forced to descend to save your life.

    So take it “pole pole.” Enjoy the scenery, don’t rush, and before you know it, you’ll be standing on top of Africa’s highest peak!

    Choose your route carefully

    Tanzania - choose route careful - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    The seven Kilimanjaro routes sound like the premise of a Netflix reality TV show. “Choose your route wisely, and you’ll reach the top. Choose poorly, and you might not.”

    So, how do you pick the best Kilimanjaro route? It all comes down to personal preference. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from each one:

    1. Marangu Route:

    The Marangu Route is the quickest, cheapest, and most comfortable. However, chance of success is low because you only have five days to summit.

    2. Machame Route:

    The Machame Route is a beautiful route. It goes up the southern flank and takes six to seven days to summit. The downside? It’s a popular route and tough going.

    3. Lemosho Route:

    The Lemosho Route is one of the best Kilimanjaro routes with a high success rate. It’s an incredibly scenic route along the western ridge with fewer people and takes six to nine days to complete.

    4. Rongai Route:

    The Rongai Route is the only route that approaches the summit from the north. It is an easier climb than Machame, Lemosho, and Shira but isn’t as scenic.

    5. Northern Circuit Route:

    The Northern Circuit Route is the longest of the Kilimanjaro climbing routes and the newest. It has high success rates and beautiful scenery along the way.

    6. Umbwe Route:

    The Umbwe Route is the shortest, steepest, and hardest Kilimanjaro route. You should only attempt it if you’re an experienced climber and you’re confident your body will respond well to the altitude.

    Invest in high-quality gear

    Tanzania - high quality gear - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is nothing to scoff at. It is a 19,000-foot mountain, after all. If you want to climb Kilimanjaro successfully, you need to invest in high-quality gear.

    Seriously, don’t skimp on it.

    You need clothes, hiking boots, comfortable walking shoes, and other hiking necessities that are made for trekking and can handle the freezing temperatures of Kili when you enter the alpine zone.

    Going with the cheapest option at the store doesn’t keep you warm or make the trek enjoyable.

    Still trying to decide what to pack? Check out our Kilimanjaro packing lists.

    Pack layers for the different climate zones

    Tanzania - layers for different climate zones - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    One of the fascinating facts about Kilimanjaro is that it has five different climate zones. When you start the hike, you’ll trek through a humid rainforest. It’s home to wildlife, pesky mosquitoes, and high temperatures.

    But the further up you go, the colder it becomes, and soon, you’ll need to ditch your shorts for insulated layers to survive the freezing ice caps of Kilimanjaro. When packing, opt for layers. 

    It’s one of the best tips for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro that’ll make your life 10x more accessible and help you quickly adapt to the different climate zones on the mountain.

    Pack high-calorie snacks

    Tanzania - shutterstock 768690031 - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Do you know what Kilimanjaro does not have? 24-hour pizza joints and cafe shops to satiate your hunger pains.

    While your chef will care about whipping up three nutritious main meals, you must bring a few high-calorie and high-energy snacks to conquer the mountain.

    Your saving grace will be things like:

    protein bars

    beef jerky

    dried fruit

    nuts

    Tip: Keep your snacks in the pockets of your backpack’s hip straps. It will make it 10x more straightforward to reach for your beef jerky and help keep the effects of high-altitude trekking at bay.

    Drink plenty of water & pack water bottles

    Tanzania - drink plenty of water 1 - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Hands down, drinking lots of water is one of the most essential tips for climbing Kilimanjaro. The high altitude and physical exercise means you’ll sweat and become dehydrated – fast.

    To avoid this, bring a three-litre water bladder. It straps to the back of your pack, and the nozzle locks onto your front strap. When you get thirsty, bite down on the nozzle, and voila! You have water without needing to stop or take your bag off.

    But you can bring more than that.

    After day one, you’ll refill your water from nearby streams. You should carry water purification tablets (iodine pills) to purify the water and rehydrate sachets (if you don’t like the iodine flavour).

    Lastly, you’ll need a one-litre Nalgene water bottle. This will help you reach the recommended water-carrying capacity of four to five litres and help you on summit night.

    Due to the freezing temperatures at the top of Kilimanjaro, your water bladder valve freezes over, so you won’t be able to drink from it. The water bottle doesn’t have this problem and will keep you hydrated as you push to summit the mountain at sunrise.

    Pay for the "Bank of America": A portable private toilet

    Tanzania - shutterstock 1683569785 - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    For the low price of $100, you can have some first-world convenience on top of Africa’s highest peak. The “Bank of America” is a zippered, waterproof, and portable bathroom tent, and it’s one of the best tips for climbing Kilimanjaro.

    Without it, you’ll need to trek to the old wooden outhouses or find shelter behind the volcanic outcroppings. It will save you from the long lines or walking to find a hole in the ground in the middle of the night.

    It’s not a must-have but a creature comfort that’ll make the hike much more bearable.

    Take your doctor's advice and bring meds

    Tanzania - doctor advice - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Visiting your doctor before you board your flights and touch down in Tanzania. The lowland jungle is rife with mosquitos, and malaria is a real risk here, so bring antimalarial medication if you can. 

    The further up you go, you might need the help of altitude pills to acclimatize, and unfamiliar bacteria can knock out your immune system.

    A visit to the doctor can help you prepare for any health hiccups and get you to the summit.

    Tip: Stock up on any other specialized medication or toiletries you need before leaving home. Refrain from assuming everything will be readily available in Tanzania.

    Break in your hiking shoes beforehand

    Tanzania - hiking shoes - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    When trekking Kilimanjaro, comfortable hiking shoes are essential. There’s nothing worse than getting blisters on a multi-day trek. It’s painful, uncomfortable, and will make you regret Googling: “How to successfully climb Kilimanjaro.”

    If you buy new shoes for the trek, make sure your boots are insulated, waterproof, and have excellent ankle support. And remember to try the boots on with your summit socks! Once you’re happy, take your hiking shoes out on the trails.

    A good rule of thumb? Hike at least 100km in your new shoes before heading to Kilimanjaro.

    Tip: Wear your hiking shoes on the plane. You will be without your most essential item if your luggage goes missing.

    Best tips for climbing mount Kilimanjaro: Take time to rest

    Tanzania - take time to rest - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Self-care is your number one priority while trekking Mt Kilimanjaro. Without it, you might push your body too hard and have to turn back. To avoid this, make this tip for climbing Kilimanjaro your mantra: Take time to rest.

    During the day, take a break if you need one. Remember, you’re not on the mountain trying to break a world record. You’re there to accomplish climbing Kilimanjaro for yourself. So look after yourself.

    At camp, use only what is necessary. Lie in your tent, relax, and eat dinner even if you don’t feel hungry. Your body needs the calories to recover and have enough energy to get you up the mountain.

    Choose a reputable company for your Kilimanjaro climb

    Tanzania - easytravel mount guide - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Ultimately, having an unforgettable Kilimanjaro hike boils down to choosing a reputable trekking company with experienced guides.

    While going with the lowest price is tempting, you’re gambling with your safety.

    Cheap or unknown tour companies are often unreliable and don’t use high-quality gear. If your guide is “green” and doesn’t know how to detect or treat altitude sickness, you could be in a severe medical situation.

    Good Kilimanjaro trekking companies use guides to enhance your possibility of reaching the summit safely and have proof to back this up.

    Find a reason

    Tanzania - find a reason to climb - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    Take this advice to heart: deciding your reason for climbing Kilimanjaro is essential. Your reason is your motivation, and without motivation, where do you start? The days of hiking will take a lot of work, and for a successful climb, you’ll need to stay motivated.

    Listen to your body

    Tanzania - listen to your body - top 15 tips for climbing mount kilimanjaro

    There are some critical tell-tale signs regarding altitude sickness; if you ignore them, let’s not go there. We want you to be safe, and to do that, you need to listen to and respect your body. Don’t try to push yourself further than you know you can go.

    Ready to conquer mount Kilimanjaro?

    Gym membership? Check.

    Trekking poles and trekking gear? Check. Flights to Tanzania? Triple check.

    Now that you know how to successfully climb Kilimanjaro, all that’s left is to book your Kilimanjaro trekking package. Choose your route, and let’s get you to the Roof of Africa!

    Frequently Asked Questions - Tips for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (FAQs)

    1. How physically fit do I need to be to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

    Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is highly demanding and requires good physical fitness. While you don’t need to be an experienced mountaineer, you should have undertaken some form of cardiovascular training, including activities such as running, biking, or swimming, before your climb.

    Including hill and stair climbing workouts, which closely mimic the actions involved in mountain trekking, is also beneficial. Remember, Mount Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb, meaning you don’t need mountaineering skills, but good condition of your physical endurance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness is indispensable.

    2. What is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

    The best times to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are during its two dry seasons: January through mid-March and June to October. The skies are generally clearer during these periods, with minimal chance of encountering rain.

    This can enhance your climbing experience and your chances of reaching the summit. However, climbers can ascend the mountain any time of the year with the proper preparation and gear.

    3. What gear do I need for Mount Kilimanjaro?

    The gear you bring will play a pivotal role in your comfort, safety, and, ultimately, your success. Essential items include quality hiking boots, layered clothing to accommodate varying temperatures, rainwear, cold-weather gear for summit night, gloves, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection. 

    You will also need a day pack, a larger bag for porters to carry, a good quality sleeping bag, trekking poles for climbing and descending comfort, and water storage for hydration.

    4. What is the most popular route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

    The most popular route for the Mount Kilimanjaro climb is the Marangu Route, renowned as the “Coca-Cola” route, due to its accessibility and relative ease. This route offers huts for accommodation and takes approximately five to six days to complete. 

    However, it’s worth noting that other routes, such as the Machame or Lemosho route, while more difficult and longer, often have higher success rates due to better acclimatization periods.

    5. How do I deal with altitude sickness while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

    Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a common concern when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The best way to prevent it is by ascending slowly and allowing your body to acclimatize to the increasing altitude.

    Drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious foods, and avoiding alcohol can help. If you start to experience symptoms like headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, or sleep disturbance, it’s crucial to let your guide know, as immediate descent is usually the best treatment.

    6. What is the success rate for Mount Kilimanjaro's climb?

    The climbing Mount Kilimanjaro success rate varies significantly based on several factors, including the route selected, trek duration, level of physical fitness, and acclimatization. Success rates can range from 50% to over 85%.

    Routes that are longer in duration, thereby allowing for better acclimatization, tend to have higher success rates. Of course, individual factors also contribute, but with good preparation and guidance, many climbers can reach the summit successfully.

    7. What food and water provisions are available during the climb?

    On an organized trek, your team will include a cook who prepares all meals during your climb. Meals are typically carbohydrate-rich for energy and have various fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and dairy.

    Before each day’s climb, you’ll fill thermoses or water bottles with purified water. Additional water for drinking is provided each night at the camp. You should drink at least 3 litres of water daily to stay hydrated and aid with acclimatization.

    8. What kind of training is recommended for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

    In addition to cardiovascular training (running, cycling, swimming), strength and endurance training should be part of your regimen. Focus on strengthening your core and legs.

    Hiking in local areas with a weighted backpack can provide good training for your body and acclimatize your feet to walking in boots for extended periods. Additionally, consider training at a high altitude or using a treadmill on an incline if you live in flat areas.

    9. How long does it take to climb Mount Kili?

    The time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro depends mainly on the route chosen. Most routes require five to seven days, although some can take up to nine or more days. 

    Routes that are longer duration offer better acclimatization and, consequently, a higher success rate. Taking enough time for proper acclimatization is crucial to increase your chances of reaching the summit.

    10. What can I expect upon summiting Mount Kilimanjaro?

    Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro is an enriching experience. Upon reaching the summit, climbers will peer over the vast African landscape from Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the mountain.

    A substantial wooden sign, a proud and anticipated photo spot for many trekkers, marks the top of Kilimanjaro. At 5,895m above sea level, you will be on top of Africa, an unforgettable accomplishment and experience.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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